Category Archives: Books

If You Must Read One Book This Labor Day, Read Common Sense and a Little Fire, Second Edition: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965

In the working world, there are certain things that we are used to: a reasonable wage, a set number of working hours, a safe working environment, etc. But it was not so long ago that it took mass protests and generations of union workers demanding their rights for these to happen.

If you must read one book this Labor Day, I highly recommend Common Sense and a Little Fire, Second Edition: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965 by Annelise Orleck. Telling the story of Rose Schneiderman, Fannia Cohn, Clara Lemlich Shavelson and Pauline Newman, Ms. Orleck tells the story of how four immigrant women created and defined the labor movement for their time and for our time.

I think this book is important to read, especially today, because many of us have off today. We take for granted the rights that we have as employees, especially those of us who are protected and supported by a union. In the time of the women whose stories are told in the book, joining a union and protesting at best meant being professionally blacklisted and at worst, meant a trip to the hospital after being beaten during a protest.

These four women and many others paved the way for the working world that many of us know of today. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing today, if you have a chance to read this book today, I highly recommend that you do.

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Caging Skies Book Review

Growing up happens in different ways. However, during war time, growing up often happens quicker than during peace time.

Christine Leunens’s new novel, Caging Skies, is set during World War II. Johannes Betzler is a young man living in Nazi occupied Vienna. Like many young men of his time, he becomes an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth.

Then he discovers that his parents are hiding Elsa, a Jewish girl behind a wall in their home. His initial disgust turns into infatuation and then obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only person who knows about Elsa. Her fate is in his hands.

I hate to use the “p” word (potential) when writing a review, but that is the only word I can use to describe this book. When I started reading this book, I was engrossed in this story of a boy who goes through quite a transformation. The book is described as a sort of dark comedy. Frankly, I did not get the comedy and I was disappointed by the time I reached the end of the story.

Do I recommend it Not really.

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Mrs. Everything Book Review

Whether we like it or not,when we grow up with siblings, we are assigned roles within the family. However, that does not mean that we stay within those roles as adults.

Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Mrs. Everything, starts in the 1950’s. Jo and Bethie Kaufman are living an idyllic middle class life in Detroit. Jo is the rebel and the tomboy. Bethie is the little lady and conformist. But their adult roles will not match their childhood roles.

Over the next couple of decades, personal experience and the outside changing world will switch their roles. Jo becomes the suburban wife and mother. Bethie is the rebel who never quite settles down. Though both women seem to be settled as adults, they both question if they have made the right choices in life.

This book is amazing. The details of the time periods that she writes in are superb. I love that the sisters are fully formed, they are so different, but somehow incredibly similar. I also loved that the human quality of the relationships between the female characters. The relationships between the girls and their mother, between Jo and Bethie (a lovely nod to Little Women), between Jo and her daughters was absolutely perfect.

I absolutely recommend it.

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America Is Better Than This: Trump’s War Against Migrant Families Book Review

America’s story, as a whole, is made up of millions of individual stories of immigrants. Unfortunately, there are some who for political reasons, conveniently forget these stories. But there are others in the corridors of power who are determined that new generations of immigrants are given the opportunities as past immigrants.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) is determined to not only keep these stories alive, he is equally determined to remind Americans about the inhuman treatment that those who wish to become Americans are experiencing. In his new book, America Is Better Than This: Trump’s War Against Migrant Families, Senator Merkley writes about his first hand experience at the border. In visiting migrants who are forced into what are essentially internment camps, where children are separated from their parents, he reveals the hard truth that we, as a country, must face.

As I see it, there are too many politicians these days who are too willing to bury their heads in the sand or to further their careers. I admire Senator Merkley for speaking up and reminding us that, according to his must read book, America is better than this.

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday- Charlotte’s Web (1973)

As we get older, certain books take us back to our childhood and simpler times.

In 1973, the beloved children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White was made into an animated film starring the late Debbie Reynolds as the titular spider. Through her wisdom and a flair for marketing, Charlotte is able to save a pig from ending up on the dinner table.

There is something magical about this adaptation, no matter how old you are. The lessons apply to young and old, but are couched in a way that does not feel like a lesson. It feels like a gentle maternal nudge in the right direction is that neither forced or sudden.

I recommend it.

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A Pure Heart Book Review

The relationship between sisters is often complicated.

The new novel, A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib, is set in New York City and Egypt. Rose and Gameela are sisters. At one time, they were very close, but their adult lives are completely different. Rose is married to Mark, an American journalist and living in New York City. She works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is studying for her Phd.

Gameela is much more devoted to their mutual faith than her sister. Unlike her sister, she is still living in their hometown of Cairo. In the chaos and violence after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, she is killed. After her sister’s death, Rose returns to Egypt and is trying to figure out who Gameela was and what secrets she was keeping.

The premise of this novel was interesting. I appreciated that the driving force of the narrative was the sisters and their relationship as adults. Like many sisters, they disagree on quite a few topics, but when push comes to shove, they are sisters and forever bonded as sisters. Though the ending was not as dramatic as I hoped it would be, this book overall is not a bad book.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story Book Review

For over 200 years, America, despite her flaws, has stood out as a beacon of democracy and liberty. These days, some question if the image of America is just that, especially given who is in the White House.

In the new book, The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story, radio and television journalist Joy-Ann Reid explores how you know who has forever altered this country.

She starts the book comparing New York City to it’s fictional comic counterpart, Gotham City and you know who to one of the many villains who take pleasure in antagonizing Batman. She then goes on to explore how you know who’s Presidency has forever changed America and questions what may change when he leaves office.

This book is an interesting one. Among the many books that have been published over the last couple of years about you know who and his administration, Ms. Reid writes about an angle of the story that I don’t think has been explored before. If nothing else, I think this book is the nudge that America needs to get involved in the future of our country before it is too late.

I recommend it.

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Blinded by the Light Movie Review

When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.

His story is told in the new movie, Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.

Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?

I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.

I absolutely recommend it.

Blinded by the Light is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts on the New Little Women Trailer

Little Women is one of those books. It is the literary gateway drug that for many young bookworms (myself included). I remember reading an abridged version of the novel when I was around eleven or twelve. I loved it then and almost thirty years later, that love has blossomed into a life long affection.

The trailer for the reboot written and directed by Greta Gerwig was just released earlier today. Stepping into the iconic, universal and beloved roles of the March sisters are Emma Watson (Meg), Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Eliza Scanlan (Beth) and Florence Pugh (Amy). Supporting and sometimes bumping heads with the March girls are Marmee (Laura Dern), Laurie (Timothée Chalamet ) and Meryl Streep (Aunt March).

As a friend stated on Facebook, about this trailer and the film’s potential success, ” If anyone can top Winona’s Jo, is DEFINITELY Saoirse”. I have an incredible amount of love for the 1994 adaptation, but if this version can top that love, I will love this film forever.

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Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland Book Review

Sometimes, the enemy is found within and not without.

Earlier this year, the new book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, was published. Written by Professor and Psychologist Jonathan M. Metzl, the book talks about how the policies and beliefs of the conservative movement are hurting and not helping those who adhere to those beliefs.

In the book, Dr. Metzel delves into topics such as the ACA, the debate about America’s gun laws and other topics that continue to divide this country and ultimately shortening the lives of the men whom he interviewed.

Some might see this book as slightly academic in nature. I think in a certain light, it is an academic book. But, from my perspective, it is a cultural and sociological review of a sector of our country that many of us either dismiss or don’t consider because they are not part of our daily lives. I think this book is an important read, especially as we get closer to the 2020 Presidential election.

I recommend it.

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